What Do You Do The Day After There’s A Mass Shooting At Your School?

A teenage couple wakes up in grief.

Remy Smidt / BuzzFeed News

PARKLAND, Florida — On a quiet street lined with peach-colored houses and plants that thrive in warmth, 16-year-old Sara Giovanello and her boyfriend Jared Burns were sitting on a couch, their hands clasped together, the morning after a gunman massacred their classmates with a rifle.

It was at first an oddly quiet day spent — where else — on social media, looking for the latest updates on their friends. By nightfall, they were in an emotional vigil with the community, lighting candles and listening to the grief of people who lost loved ones.

Sara spent the shooting in a closet, “face to face” with students in her trigonometry class. “There was no ventilation. No air. It's crammed with the body heat of nine pubescent children,” she told BuzzFeed News.

Like other students, Sara thought the fire alarm was a drill. When they first heard the shots, Sara’s teacher “tried to convince [them] it was firecrackers.”

Both Jared and Sara recalled the horror of hearing their peers, panicking, yelling, “please let me in!” as they banged on the locked doors of classrooms, looking for a place to hide.

Last night, she slept in her mom’s bed, “like a little kid,” she remarked.

Sara Giovanello

Waiting in the closet, teens were making calls and mining social media, searching for any kernel of information. Sara, against her better judgement, watched gruesome Snapchats, on Twitter, looking for which of her classmates had been harmed. Sara was especially worried about her 15-year-old freshman sister, Jordan, who is also a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

“Everybody’s on the phone with their parents saying if this is the last time I hear your voice, know that I love you,” Sara recalled. Rumors were rampant. Sara said she heard whispers such as, “This person got shot in the arm. This person’s arm got grazed.”

Thursday morning, Sara woke up early and texted Jared. She wanted to eat, but she couldn’t. Jared also hadn’t eaten. As soon as they woke up, they were both glued to their phones.

When a SWAT team freed her and her classmates after 2.5 hours, she was told to put her hands up. She did so, with one. The other held on to her AP art project, an iPad, and a fuchsia carnation that Jared gave to her for Valentine’s Day. Sara heard a rumor that they could bring “small things,” with them when authorities came.

This proved untrue. She exited only with her phone, which she was instructed to keep in her pocket. Sara was particularly bummed to leave behind the flower. “It made my heart hurt,” she said.

Jared balled up his fist, beginning to cry when as he thought of his friend, Alaina Petty who died. He had the period before the shooting with her, in their ROTC class.

Remy Smidt / BuzzFeed News

“I didn’t think that was the last time I’d see her,” he said of Alaina. “We were just being kids. I said goodbye of course. I gave her a hug of course,” he said, as if searching for some way he might have parted with her differently. Sara wiped away his tears as he spoke. The two of them lost a mutual friend together, too, Helena Ramsay.

Jared found out she died soon after woke up, when he saw a post on Instagram. “I sat there with my phone in my hand. I just threw it, not caring where it landed or anything. I’m just sitting there. I saw her yesterday.”

Sara is checking her phone, when a new list comes in — the identifications of the deceased. They look over the names together, Jared’s head resting on Sara’s shoulder. Sara red the names out-loud, as she rubbed her fingers together.

“I just can’t imagine what it’s going to be going back to school,” Jared said, and looked at Sara.

“I don’t know,” she responded.

“There’s going to be two more empty seats in our classroom,” Jared said.

Remy Smidt / BuzzFeed News

The two of them, after I left, attempted forgetting by watching the show Modern Family. But both spent most of the afternoon on social media, their feeds a barrage of information, posts, and rumor. They then checked on a friend, and headed to the park for free grief counseling.

Later that night, the park became a vigil. Crosses were scattered through the field with tissue boxes placed under them as the white wood dripped with wax. The weather was perfect, the sky opalescent, and everything smelled so sweet in the way that only humid places can. Sara called the vigil “absolutely beautiful.”

Remy Smidt / BuzzFeed News

As it grew dark, and people began to light their candles — teens, kids, parents, grandparents, strangers — looked to an amphitheater straddled by palm trees as people spoke, like Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie Guttenberg was killed in the attack. He couldn't remember if he told his daughter “I love you” before she went to school that day.

Young girls gasped and cried as the names of the victims of the shooting were read out loud by the senior class president. A boy, who had a skateboard propped under his foot, held a candle jointly with the girl next to him while she intermittently cried on his shoulder. A woman held up a bouquet of purple daisies.

As white balloons floated into the sky, the vigil concluded. “Oh there you are,” one girl said to another one. The teen who had been found burst into tears, collapsing into her friend’s arms.

Sara and Jared were also embracing their friends, forming a circle with their arms around one another. Asked what Sara planned to do after the vigil, she replied, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”

LINK: Here Are All Of The Victims Of The Florida School Shooting

LINK: Latest updates on the Florida school shooting

Source: https://www.buzzfeed.com/usnews.xml

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